The characters belong to Studios USA and Renaissance Pictures and were used without permission. No copyright infringement was intended and no money was made.
This story contains explicit descriptions of male/male sexual relations.
You can find more stories by Aramis at Nephele's Herculean Slash page.
Hercules entered the town of Farsala's somewhat seedy tavern and looked around. As anticipated, he spotted Iolaus. The hunter was sitting in a dark corner, hunched over a tankard of ale, and did not seem to be aware of his presence. "Iolaus!"
"Oh ... Ah ... Hi, Herc." The greeting would have sounded diffident coming from anyone and sounded totally out of character for the usually exuberant blond, who normally bounced to greet the demigod, with a dazzling smile and shining eyes, while talking ninety to the dozen.
With a feeling of mild unease, the demigod walked over to his friend and sat down on the bench beside him. The hunter kept his head down, seeming to find something fascinating to look at in his drink.
"Sorry I'm a bit late. How long have you been here?" Hercules asked the mop of golden curls.
"Three or four days."
"What have you been doing?"
"Nothing much." His voice was a monotone.
"That sounds interesting."
"Missed me?" the demigod asked teasingly, hoping to spark a more animated reaction.
The head started to lift in surprise at the almost flirtatious tone, but went quickly down again. "Nope."
"Not even a little bit?" After all, they had actually been apart for a month, which was, for them, quite a time.
"No!" There was a touch of vehemence in the reply.
'There's definitely something odd going on,' Hercules mused. 'I wonder what he's been up to this time?' Still there was plenty of time to find out what Iolaus' latest misdemeanour was. "Which one is our room? I'd like to dump my carry-bag and wash the dust off."
"First left at the top of the stairs."
"Aren't you coming?"
"Later. I-I j-just want to finish my drink."
"Iolaus, is there something wrong?" Hercules asked, in a voice that betrayed his concern.
"Look at me."
"You haven't looked directly at me since I arrived."
"So? I've seen you before. There's nothing new about you, is there?" There was a petulant, almost defensive, note in his voice.
In response, Hercules merely extended steely fingers and forced the blond's chin up. He gasped when he saw Iolaus' face. The left side, which Iolaus had been keeping carefully to the wall, was virtually one massive bruise and his eye was blackened and swollen shut. "Iolaus! What's happened?"
"It's nothing, Herc."
"A painful looking nothing." He paused and, when no explanation was forthcoming, said accusingly, "You've been fighting again, haven't you?"
"No!" Iolaus protested.
Hercules ignored him. "I've told you I'm sick and tired of you starting fights." His final lecture to Iolaus before they'd parted had been on that very subject. It wasn't that the demigod objected to a fight in a good cause, such as against bandits, but what he didn't like was Iolaus' tendency to get into a fight just for the fun of it.
"I didn't!" His voice was indignant.
Hercules could feel his temper rising. "That's it!" he exclaimed, in exasperation at the obvious untruths. "I think we'd better continue this discussion in private. Get up!"
"No! I'm staying here."
"We'll see about that." The demigod grasped the blond's shoulder and yanked him none too gently to his feet. "Now are you going to walk or am I going to carry you?"
Iolaus glared up at him. "Why can't you just leave me alone, Herc? What I do is none of your business."
"Since always!" Iolaus responded rashly.
*That* was enough as far as Hercules was concerned. Clearly Iolaus was not going to behave reasonably. "Iolaus, you've got your options. What's it going to be, walking or being carried?"
"Walking," the blond muttered, reluctantly. He headed towards the stairs and then suddenly twisted sideways and darted towards the outside door.
Knowing the hunter of old, Hercules had been anticipating just such a move. His hand shot out and grabbed a fistful of blond curls.
"Serves you right." He pulled Iolaus to him and made to pick him up.
"I'll walk! I'll walk!" the hunter said hurriedly
"Do so then and no more tricks." He kept a firm grip on Iolaus' right arm so the blond had no choice but to obey this time.
Once they were in the room, Hercules shut the door and swung Iolaus to face him. "Fighting's bad enough, Iolaus, but I'm not prepared to put up with lies."
"I'm *not* lying!"
"If it wasn't a fight, what was it then?"
"Oh, yeah!" the demigod exclaimed, in a voice of total disbelief.
"Nothing you'd be interested in."
"You mean nothing I'd want to hear. I'm interested in *everything* you do, Iolaus. Your antics are a never-ending source of wonder to me."
"Tell me!" As he spoke, he reached out and clasped Iolaus' upper arms and gave the hunter a shake. "Tell me!" he demanded.
"Ow! No! Let go!" He tried to pull away, but couldn't move an inch.
"Tell me!" Hercules ordered, shaking the blond again.
"Herc, it's got nothing to do with you. I don't *have* to tell you anything," he insisted defiantly.
"Maybe not, but you *are* going to tell me, even if I have to shake it out of you." He gave the hunter another harder shake.
"No! Don't! Damn you!"
"Ow! No!" This wasn't doing his aching head any good at all.
The demigod shook him harder until Iolaus caught his breath and had a prolonged and painful coughing fit.
Hercules waited until he'd got his breath and then moved as if to repeat the treatment. "No, Herc, please ..." The hunter's voice trailed off. He *wasn't* going to beg.
Taken aback by the unexpected partial supplication, the demigod released him suddenly. Iolaus staggered back and sat down heavily on the bed.
Hercules bent and picked up his carry-bag, which he had dropped as they had entered the room, and started for the door. "Wh-Where are you going?" Iolaus asked.
"I don't know, Iolaus, but I'm leaving. I've had enough of this. I *know* I have no right to ask you what you've been doing, but I was concerned about you. Friends do worry about each other, you know. However, since you clearly don't want to confide in me, I might as well go."
The hunter rose quickly and held out an appealing hand. "Herc, please .... please don't ... don't ... I-I'd tell you, but ... but I don't know what to say." To the demigod's surprise, he looked almost ready to weep.
"The truth is always best."
"N-Not always. Not in this case. You're going to be ... You won't ... You won't like it."
"Iolaus, just *tell* me please."
"All right. It was just ... the person I was with last night just ... just got a bit annoyed with me."
"So it *was* a fight then."
"N-No, not like you mean."
'Iolaus, stop talking in riddles. It was either a fight or it wasn't."
"It takes two to fight. I wasn't fighting."
"Iolaus, are you trying to tell me someone hit you and you didn't hit them back." Hercules' voice was frankly incredulous.
"Come off it! You're the last person I know who would behave like that."
"Herc, can't we just forget about it, please?" the blond appealed.
Another thought occurred to the demigod. 'Perhaps he's been attacked without warning and he's ashamed at being surprised and beaten.' He asked, "Do you mean he caught you completely off-guard?"
"And he's hurt you like that and he's just got away with it?"
"Just forget it, Herc, I'm trying to."
"Iolaus, tell me who it was and I'll deal with him for you."
"I thought you were against picking fights," the blond responded, with a flash of his usual spirit.
"This wouldn't be picking a fight, it would be finishing one. Who was it?"
"Nobody you'd know."
"Who was it? I can ask around, you know."
"No, don't! Please let me handle it myself."
"Tell me or I'll ask."
That was no idle threat and the hunter knew it, so he reluctantly said, "Okay, it was Surrentum, the local blacksmith, but I don't want you going near him. Please, Herc, promise you won't."
"The blacksmith!" Hercules had seen him as he was entering town. He was a massive man, as tall as Hercules and twice as broad. If that man had hit Iolaus it was a wonder the blond was still able to walk. "Iolaus, I saw him. He's huge. You can't possibly take him on yourself."
"I'm not going to."
"What?!?" Hercules exclaimed incredulously. It was not in Iolaus' nature to ignore an insult or a blow.
"It was ... It was my fault. I'm not going near him again."
This was too out of character for Hercules to believe. After all this *was* Iolaus and the feisty little blond would tell Ares himself to go to Tartarus and damn the consequences. "Iolaus, please let me handle him."
"Haven't you been listening, Herc? I don't want revenge."
"He must have given you quite a blow. He's changed your character ... possibly for the better," Hercules couldn't help joking. However, then he added, "Seriously though, for once I don't think a back-down is warranted, Iolaus."
"No, Herc, it *was* my fault."
"Why? What on earth did you do to deserve that?"
"It was really something I said."
"Not again! That tongue will be the death of you, Iolaus."
"Yeah, well it was just a little slip and he took exception to it."
"Seems rather an extreme reaction for a *little* slip. What did you say this time?"
"I just ... I just accidentally called him by somebody else's name."
"And he hit you for *that*?" the bemused demigod asked.
"It was just the timing of it."
"The timing? Iolaus, this conversation has me completely confused."
"I know. You've got no idea. That's why it's so difficult to explain."
"Well," said the demigod, struggling to make some sense out of things, "who's name did you use."
Iolaus' head went down again and he muttered something quickly.
"What did you say?"
"All right!" the hunter said, with a touch of asperity. "I called him 'Hercules'. Are you happy now?"
"And my name is an insult?"
"Yes! I mean, no ... It was just the timing. Please, Herc, can't you just forget it?"
"How can I now that I know my name is involved? To my knowledge I've never met the man. What's he got against me?"
"Hercules, *please* just drop it."
The demigod was aware of the hunter's uncharacteristic use of his full name, rather than the usual affectionate diminutive, and felt oddly nettled by it. "No, this clearly involves me in some way, so I want the full story."
"You'll be sorry if I give it to you," Iolaus retorted.
"And you'll be sorry if you don't," Hercules responded heatedly. He was starting to get quite annoyed with Iolaus' apparent unwillingness to give a straight answer.
The hunter flinched. *That* was true. He had got himself into a no-win situation. "All right, I'll tell you, but remember you *made* me tell. I wasn't going to. So if you don't like what ..."
"Iolaus!" the demigod intervened. "Stop babbling and tell me."
"Okay." He sank down onto the bed. "Last night, Surrentum and I had had some drinks and he's one of those people who gets a bit touchy when he's had a few in. However, he seemed to have his temper under control and things were going reasonably well. He'd told me off a couple of times for being inattentive, but I didn't worry too much as he was getting what he wanted and so I thought he should be happy enough."
"Inattentive to what? What was he saying that was so important?"
"It was what he was *doing*. I mean, I know I was letting him do all the 'work', but I thought he was a take-charge kind of guy or, at least, I hoped he was."
"What work? Were you in his forge? I thought you were down in the bar."
"No, we were ... um ... we were in ... in here."
Hercules stared at him. Suddenly an incredible suspicion started to grow. "Iolaus, were you ... You weren't ... Surely, you weren't ..." His voice trailed off. He couldn't put the thought into words.
"In bed with him? Having sex? Getting fucked? Which one do you want, Herc? Perhaps you'd prefer 'sleeping together' as it's more ambiguous," the hunter said, a note of defiance in his voice.
A wave of loathing for the man he had barely glimpsed washed over Hercules. "You had sex with that horrible, dirty ..."
"Hey, he's not *that* bad. A bit of soap and water could help but ..."
"Iolaus! How *could* you?"
"You surely don't want a description of how two men have sex, do you?"
Hercules ignored the comment. "What on earth were you thinking of? I can't believe you'd do something like *that*."
"*That* was the trouble."
"Thinking! What, or perhaps I should say *who*, I was thinking of."
"I can't believe I'm hearing this."
"Well, you made me tell you. Have you heard enough now?"
There was an odd note of hope in that question. Hercules *had* heard enough, he'd heard more than enough, but he knew he hadn't heard it all. He was going to have to do so if he was going to come to terms with the situation. He had to know exactly what happened and, more importantly, why. "I suppose I'd better hear the lot. Why did he hit you?"
Iolaus had been hoping he could avoid this. Although he did not want the demigod to be repulsed by his previously well-concealed proclivities, he had hoped that Hercules would now drop the subject. However, he should have known that was a false hope. Hercules was nothing if not tenacious once he got his teeth into an issue. "Okay," he said reluctantly, "but I warn you it gets worse."
"How could it?"
"You remember I said he got mad because I was inattentive?"
"You see I was ... I was ... pretending that ... imagining that I was with someone else." He flushed and added, "I was just ... just using him you see."
"You're right, Iolaus, that *is* worse. I just can't understand why you'd ... but go on."
Iolaus swallowed and closed his eyes, bracing himself before continuing. "He told me he'd give me something to wake me up and then he pounded in to me without proper preparation. Gods, it hurt! But then ... But then he hit the prostate and I screamed out the ... the name I was thinking of. He withdrew immediately. He was in a fury and he just flipped me over and thumped me. He's got fists the size of bloody hams. I suppose I was lucky this was all the damage he did."
"But where did my name ..." a mystified Hercules started. Then his jaw dropped. "You were thinking about *me*?" he gasped, in utter shock.
"Who else?" the hunter asked, bitterly. "Surely, after all these years that doesn't come as a surprise to you ... No, I can see from your face that it does."
"Iolaus, I never thought ..."
"You'd be the only one then. For years men have taunted me with being your catamite. Gods, how I wished they were right."
"But you never said anything to me?"
"How could I? What would you have said? I didn't want to lose your friendship, so I did this instead."
"But I never knew you were interested in men."
"Not men, just one man."
"But I've only seen you flirting with the ladies."
"Of course. I've been *very* discreet. I don't go with men often. And there's no flirtation involved, just sex."
"But why someone like the blacksmith?"
"He's repulsive! You could get someone more attractive."
"With your pretty looks and ... I mean ..." He broke off in some confusion. "You *know* what I mean!"
"I wasn't interested in looks. It was muscle that I wanted."
"Well, I was pretending the man was you, wasn't I? I wanted him to ... to..."
"To?" Hercules prompted, fascinated in spite of himself.
"To take charge. I wanted you to ... him to take over the direction of events. I wanted to feel that muscle holding me firmly, moving me, using me for *his* pleasure, making me obey what ..."
Hercules could hardly believe his ears. "*Obey*? *You*?"
"Yes." A shamefaced whisper.
"But, Iolaus, *you* are the most disobedient person I know! You seem to positively delight in disregarding my orders," the flabbergasted demigod exclaimed.
"Yeah, but you don't usually let me get away with it, do you?"
"Are you telling me that ... You are, aren't you?"
Suddenly, a number of memories crowded into Hercules' mind, memories of incidents in which the willful hunter had deliberately done exactly what the demigod had just told him in no uncertain terms he was *not* to do. He could recall himself pulling the blond out of fights, physically restraining him from flinging himself into other conflicts, placing a firm hand over that provokingly outspoken mouth and even a firm hand across that leather-clad backside by way of quick correction, emphasis or never completed threat. Gods, how the little ratbag had manipulated him!
To be honest, now that he thought about it, he realized it was not exactly a revelation. He *had* known, subconsciously at least, that there was a degree of role-playing in their little skirmishes. Each knew the part allotted to him and acted it with some relish. Xena, used to Gabrielle's usual amicable agreement with her plans, had made some terse comment about this one day when Iolaus had been particularly obstreperous and the demigod remembered replying to the effect that they had different expectations of their partners and he always anticipated disobedience from his 'charge'.
Anticipated? Expected? Enjoyed? He knew Alcmene thought Iolaus' irreverent attitude was good for him, that he would have been quite insufferable without the argumentative little blond to bring him back to earth and to disrupt his existence with his teasing and tricks. There were too many other people willing to tell a demigod what they thought he wanted to hear rather than what they really felt.
Well, Iolaus had certainly told him what he felt on this occasion, and Hercules was feeling somewhat stunned by the unexpected disclosure.
"What happens now?" Iolaus asked tentatively, breaking in to Hercules' thoughts.
"I don't know, Iolaus. This has come as somewhat of a shock to me. I *do* know that I don't want you going anywhere near that blacksmith again."
"But do you want me *near* you?" Iolaus asked. There was a note of pleading in his tone.
"Of course I do!" Hercules proclaimed heartily. "You're still my best friend."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, of course!" the demigod said emphatically.
The hunter hesitated. Was this the time to ask? Well the issue had certainly been raised and it was, hopefully, a good idea to clear the air. Besides he *had* to know. "Um ... er ... Herc, you wouldn't ... Would you ... I wondered if..."
"Wondered what? Stop babbling, Iolaus."
"Well, since lots of people already think we're doing it ..."
"Is that a definite no or a 'maybe' no?" He peeked up at Hercules through demurely lowered lashes, knowing of old that the demigod often gave in over other issues to that look.
"It's a definite no!"
"Why?" He thrust his lower lip out in a pout, aware that often had a salutary effect on the demigod, who always hated hurting or disappointing his friend.
"Iolaus, don't! Look you're hurrying me. I'd never even given a thought to this before today."
"So you *are* considering it!" Iolaus cried joyfully, increasing the pressure.
"No!" the demigod snapped. "Stop putting words in my mouth. Just leave it, Iolaus. The matter is *closed*. Finished! I am *not* considering it. Understand?" he asked vehemently.
"Y-Yes." His voice was a mere whisper and he lowered his head so only his tangled mop of unruly curls could be seen. "I-I'm sorry, Herc."
Hercules' kind heart contracted at the hunter's obvious distress. "I'm sorry too, Iolaus."
"No! It's all my fault. You don't n-need to be s-sorry." There was a sob in his voice and Hercules could see his shoulders shaking.
Hercules couldn't stand it. He reached out and pulled the hunter in against his chest. He held him tightly, stroking Iolaus' silken hair and feeling the dampness of the hunter's tears and plaguing himself with worrying questions: Why did that sturdy little body feel so right in his arms? Why were those damned curls so irresistibly soft and fluffy? And why did he feel so guilty when surely Iolaus had been the one at fault?
The next few days were rather awkward as each was being extra-careful not to say or do anything to upset the other, but gradually their relationship settled back into its old familiar pattern. Admittedly, Iolaus was more subdued than usual, but he successfully hid the full extent of his disappointment from Hercules.
Then, about a month later, the issue surfaced again. They had reached the town of Kissavos. Iolaus was anxious to bypass the town, arguing that they had another hour of daylight left and might as well move on. However, as they were in no rush to get anywhere and because he had never visited Kissavos before, Hercules opposed the suggestion. He could see no reason to camp out in the chilly weather of early winter when there was a perfectly good inn available.
Iolaus tried to argue against staying, but apparently had no real reasons, other than a vague comment that he didn't like the look of the place much. Even when pressed, he could come up with no explanation as to what appeared wrong with it, so Hercules put his foot down and said he was staying and if Iolaus wanted to move on he could do so on his own.
"Okay, if we stay can I select the inn then?" the blond asked.
"Fine, one inn is probably as good as another. Anyway there's probably only one in a town this size."
As he spoke, the demigod led the way into the town. He spotted a tavern almost immediately. "There's one! Will that do?"
"No! There's another ... I mean there's *probably* another further along the street."
"Iolaus, have you been here before?"
Iolaus ignored the question. "C'mon, Herc, let's look! You said I could choose," he said, latching on to Hercules' arm and trying to drag his friend after him.
The demigod wasn't having that. He stopped dead. "Iolaus, what are you playing at?" he asked suspiciously.
"Nothing! You *said* I could choose."
"You're starting to sound like a four-year-old," the demigod chided.
"That's not fair, you said ..."
"Definitely a four-year-old."
Realizing he wasn't going to be able to budge Hercules by pulling at him, Iolaus let go of his arm and started off along the street hoping that his friend would follow him. Hercules gave a long-suffering sigh and did just that.
At the end of the street was a second tavern, which appeared considerably more rundown than the first. "The other place looked a better bet," Hercules commented.
"No, it didn't! Don't you know anything, Herc? This is a much better place."
"Why? What's better about it?"
But there was no reply because the hunter was already heading inside.
Against Hercules' better judgement, they booked a room and headed upstairs.
As Hercules had feared, the room was pokey and none-too-clean, but when he commented to that effect the hunter argued, "This is all we need. That other place was probably too expensive."
"Since I'm paying, as usual, that's hardly your worry, is it?" Hercules retorted.
"Are you getting at me because I can't pay my share? I would have slept out, you know. I still can if you don't want ..."
"Iolaus, stop it!" the demigod interrupted. "You know I didn't make my comment to get at you over money. What's mine is yours. Surely you know that!"
Iolaus had the grace to hang his head. "I'm sorry, Herc," he muttered contritely.
Hercules nodded his acceptance of the apology and then said, "Right, let's go down and see if the cooking here is any good."
"I thought I might just go to bed."
"What? Without food?" It had been six hours since their rather meagre lunch and the hunter was usually a bottomless pit when it came to food. "Are you feeling ill, Iolaus?" Hercules asked, with concern.
"No, I'm just a bit tired, that's all."
"But a few minutes ago you were trying to persuade me to keep moving for another hour or so."
"Um ... er ... yeah, but I just ... I just suddenly felt sleepy." A rosy blush stained his cheeks as he spoke.
"Iolaus, are you certain you're all right?" the demigod persisted, seeing the colour change. He put a hand out to touch the blond's forehead but, to his relief, it was cool.
Iolaus jerked his head away. "Yeah, fine," he said quickly.
Hercules' original suspicions, that he'd had when entering the town, returned in force. He hadn't known the hunter for over twenty-five years without learning some things about him. Iolaus was a poor liar and he was clearly lying now, not about not being ill, but about why he wanted to stay in their room.
"Iolaus, why don't you want to go downstairs?"
"I *told* you, Herc! I'm tired."
"I know what you *told* me, but I want the real reason."
"All right! If it means so much to you, I will come down. Happy now?"
Although all too well aware that the wily hunter had again avoided giving him a straight answer, the demigod decided to accept the concession and not to cause an argument, especially as he was getting very hungry.
Having decided to go down, Iolaus now took the lead, swiftly making his way to the darkest corner of the tavern and sitting with his head down and golden curls all but obscuring his face. Warning bells rang in the demigod's head. There was something all too familiar in that posture. A vision of the hunter in that other tavern at Farsala popped unbidden into the demigod's mind.
However, he didn't make a comment about that, but went to the bar and ordered two bowls of stew and stood waiting for them. This took a bit longer than anticipated, but finally they arrived and he was wending his way towards his friend when he heard a man say, "Hello, Blondie. I thought I recognized that mop of curls. We haven't seen you in these parts for quite a while."
Hercules quickly put the bowls down on the nearest unoccupied table and sat down there. Normally, he would not have stooped to eavesdropping, but he was worried about Iolaus and was curious as to how someone in this town knew his friend.
He heard the hunter mutter a half-hearted greeting.
The stranger continued, "Does Leucas know you're in town? I'd have thought you'd have stayed at his place."
Iolaus mumbled something about intending to surprise someone.
Clearly discouraged by the blond's less than enthusiastic response to him, the man soon took his leave.
As soon as he'd gone, Hercules rejoined his friend, expecting him to make some comment about the person who had just left. However, the hunter merely thanked him for the stew and began eating.
"Did I see you talking to someone before?" the demigod finally asked.
"No," Iolaus said hurriedly.
"That's funny, I thought I saw someone with you," Hercules persisted.
"Oh ... um ... Yeah, a man did stop, but ... um ... but he'd mistaken me for someone else. There must be another incredibly handsome person around," he added, knowing such a comment was likely to distract the demigod away from the original subject and into a bit of banter.
On cue, the latter said, "Another one? I didn't know there was one here. Apart from me, of course."
"Over-sized people with mouse-coloured hair don't come into the category 'handsome'," Iolaus rejoined. "You have to be a proper height, like me, and you have to..."
"Proper height! Proper height for what? A rabbit?" Hercules interrupted, teasingly.
"There's nothing wrong with rabbits. They're cute, cuddly and delicious."
And so the 'argument' went, getting sillier and sillier. Hercules was pleased to see the animation on his friend's face as he enjoyed the discussion. However, he remembered the conversation he had overheard, although the hunter hoped he had forgotten the incident.
The meal over, Hercules announced he'd decided to take a look around the town before going to bed, but Iolaus said he was turning in and so they parted.
Hercules wandered down the street and decided to call in to the other tavern just to see if it was better than the one they were at.
He had barely stepped over the threshold, when a man, he had not seen for some years, hailed him and he was soon being proudly introduced to the man's various friends. Other patrons, hearing his name, gathered around eager to make the acquaintance of the son of Zeus and to ask questions about his exploits.
A couple of hours had passed before he managed to extricate himself from the admiring throng and head back to the inn where he was staying.
He expected Iolaus would be asleep but, to his surprise, the door was slightly ajar and he could see a light showing. He was about to push it open when he heard voices and stopped. Feeling guilty at doing such a thing but, unable to resist, he peeked in.
The unoccupied bed was directly in his line of sight. Iolaus had clearly retired for the night because the bed was in disarray and, as usual, his clothes were discarded messily around the floor.
He eased the door open slowly in an effort to see who was in the room. Then his eye fell upon Iolaus, standing clutching a sheet around him, while speaking to a large man that the demigod had never seen before.
"I'm sorry, Leucas," Iolaus insisted, "I've *told* you I'm not interested any more. I just want you to leave."
"Why? You were happy enough before."
"I've got someone with me."
"Who? A lover?"
"Well then what does he matter?"
"I told you I'm *not* interested any more."
"Well, I am and once more won't hurt you." He reached out a large hand and gripped the hunter's shoulder.
It was all that the demigod could do to stop himself from intervening, but he knew Iolaus would not want him there and he hoped the little blond could deal with the situation himself.
Iolaus pushed the hand off. "No! Please, Leucas, my friend will be back here any time and I don't want him to ..."
"To see us? Well, come back to my tavern then. I don't know why you stayed here in the first place."
"I didn't want to see you! Can't you understand that?"
"And why not. Last time you were here you were happy enough to let me...."
"But not *now*. Please can't you just go?"
"Okay." The man started to turn towards the door as if to leave, but then suddenly flung his left arm back and struck the hunter across the throat. Caught off-guard, Iolaus fell back across the bed, coughing and choking. "After I've had what I came for that is," Leucas added, moving towards the blond.
That was enough. Hercules flung the door back and stormed into the room. "Get away from him!" he ordered.
Leucas swung around to face him. "This is nothing to do with you. Get out!" he snarled.
"Leave him alone."
"I told you this has got nothing to do with you. Take yourself off before you get hurt."
"I won't be the one who gets hurt." He spoke so confidently that his words made Leucas pause. The latter was used to people cowering before his brute strength, not calmly warning him, and the interfering stranger was formidably muscular.
Reconsidering, Leucas decided a brief explanation might be a more effective way of seeing the annoying interloper off. "Look, you don't understand. We're just having a minor tiff here. He's *my* lover and I can do what I like with him." He turned back to the blond, "You tell him, Iolaus," he ordered.
Iolaus had struggled to a sitting position. His face was bone-white and he looked like he was going to be sick. His lips moved, but no sound emerged.
"Tell him!" Leucas snapped.
"You know he's not going to tell me any such thing," Hercules remarked almost conversationally.
"And why not?" Leucas demanded, swinging back belligerently to face the demigod.
"Because he's not your lover, he's *mine*," Hercules replied, stunning himself as well as the other two.
"What?!? Who in Tartarus do you think you are?"
"I'm Hercules and Iolaus is *my* lover. Now I think it's time you departed before I throw you out." He spoke softly, but the menace in his voice made Leucas' nerves tingle.
"Didn't the little bastard tell you about me?" Leucas' asked nastily, determined to cause as much strife for the hunter as he could. "Still you're probably used to him sleeping with anyone who's got the dinars to pay."
"That's enough!" Hercules said, advancing on Leucas. "You're going *now*."
"Yeah, sure, I don't want used goods anyway."
He started for the door, belatedly aware that he'd goaded a demigod just too much. The next moment, he felt impossibly strong hands grasping him and he was being propelled down the stairs. No matter how he tried, he could not halt his inexorable progress.
When the pair reached the street-door, the enraged demigod turned Leucas to face him and then flattened him with a vicious uppercut, before turning and re-entering the tavern.
Ignoring the stares and whispers of the patrons, all of whom knew Leucas well and none of whom liked him enough to protest at the treatment he had received, Hercules hastened up the stairs.
The hunter was still sitting huddled on the bed, with one hand to his injured throat. Hearing Hercules' entry, he raised a despondent face to him. His cerulean eyes were pools of tears. "I-I suppose you w-want to know what that was all about," he ventured, his voice rasping.
"I think I know. That was another substitute me, wasn't it?" Hercules asked, sternly.
Iolaus nodded and tears began to trickle down his pallid cheeks.
"And just how many of these 'delightful' characters are we likely to encounter?" the demigod asked, steeling himself to ignore the heart-tugging tears and determined not to let Iolaus off the hook too easily.
"N-Not many. Th-There's only been a few."
"Leucas seemed to think there were quite a number," Hercules observed.
"He was lying! H-Herc, please! You can't b-believe him, you can't!" Iolaus' cried in dismay, his voice sounding rougher than ever.
"I think you'd better give that throat a rest, Iolaus."
"You believe him," Iolaus said, wretchedly.
To his surprise, the demigod sat down beside him and wrapped an arm reassuringly around his shoulders. "Of course, I don't believe him, Iolaus. I'd never take someone else's word before yours. Now are you okay? That was a vicious blow he gave you."
The unexpected solicitude completely unmanned the blond. He buried his face against his friend's broad shoulder and sobbed.
Hercules wrapped his arms around the hunter and held him tightly, letting him cry out his upset.
Finally, Iolaus went still and Hercules released his hold. "Feeling better?" he asked gently.
"Y-Yes. Th-Thank you, Herc."
"Okay. I think you'd better have a drink of water and we'd better go to bed. I'm feeling rather worn out after all the day's exertions."
He climbed under the covers and waited for Iolaus to join him so he could extinguish the lamp. The blond was standing looking at him. "C'mon, Iolaus, what's the hold up."
"I've j-just remembered ... I-I'm sorry, Herc."
"You've just remembered what?"
"Wh-What you told ... that lie you told to try to get rid of Leucas. What if he tells anyone? I didn't mean to ... to embarrass you."
"What are you on about?" the demigod asked, climbing out of bed again and going over to the blond.
"You told him that ... You said that ... that you were m-my lover."
"Y-yes. What if he tells people?"
"What if? The truth never hurts, Iolaus."
Iolaus stared at him.
"I've been thinking about this a lot since Farsala. I just didn't know what my feelings were. The notion of having a male lover had never crossed my mind before then."
"I know and I'm so sorry that ..."
"Let me finish please. I still didn't know, but then I saw that man grab your shoulder and I knew. I don't think I've ever ... I *know* I've never felt such ... such a rush of fury ... and of jealousy at the thought of him touching you."
"Herc, do you ... do you mean ... You don't mean ..." He trailed off, heart-thumping painfully in his breast, unable to continue.
In reply the demigod pulled him into his arms and hugged him tightly, feeling Iolaus' arms embracing him in return. The blond raised bemused eyes to the demigod's face and Hercules leant down and drew him into a kiss. When he finally released the breathless blond, he whispered, "Is that convincing enough, Iolaus?"
"Nope, you'd better try that again," Iolaus managed.
Hercules laughed, but instead of the kiss, swooped Iolaus into his arms. "It's past your bedtime, my love," he said, adding the endearment without conscious thought and nuzzling his face into the golden curls.
Their love-making was tentative at first as each was taking care not to do anything to upset or hurt the other, but gradually both relaxed and they each enjoyed a leisurely exploration of the other's body.
They made a number of pleasant discoveries. The demigod was fascinated to discover that his friend was still every bit as ticklish as he'd been as a child and a mere touch to his ribs was enough to send him into hysterical giggles of anticipation. Needless to say he took ruthless advantage of this and soon had the blond writhing and giggling helplessly. "I wish I'd known about this in the past," Hercules observed, teasingly, "I can see a threat to tickle is going to be a most effective weapon if you try to misbehave in the future."
Both became very turned on and both wondered about the next move. Finally, the hunter ventured, "Herc, would you ... I would like you to ...."
"To what, my love?"
"To ...To take me."
"I don't want to hurt you, Iolaus."
"It won't hurt! Well, it hurts a bit, but I ..."
"But you enjoy it, don't you?"
"Yeah, but ... but only if you want to. I want you to do what *you* want."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, Herc. Please don't ask, just take. You know I can't stop you doing *anything* you want to me." He grinned and ran the tip of his pink tongue provocatively across his lips.
The demigod hesitated. What the hunter was suggesting was so alien to his usual gentle and considerate conduct, but then making love to the person he'd always thought of as his best friend was a major departure from his previously exclusively heterosexual and rather abstemious sexual behaviour as well. If possible he felt himself getting even harder as various images started to appear unbidden in his mind.
"It would be a nice change for you to come out on top from one of our 'encounters'," Iolaus said, giggling at his own pun.
"Oh, really?" retorted the demigod. "The only time you win an argument or a fight with me is when I let you."
"Prove it," the hunter taunted, flinging himself over onto the demigod's chest. "Fall one to me," he announced, grinning saucily.
The demigod laughed at the challenge and in seconds the blond was lying flat on the bed, with his hands pinned above his head, and the demigod astride his hips. "Number two to me," Hercules said and looked triumphantly at his lover. To his amazement, Iolaus' eyes were nearly black with desire.
He felt the blond raising his hips and trying to thrust against him. He quickly moved back onto Iolaus' thighs to thwart him. "Herc, please," Iolaus begged.
"Nope." He leant forward and began to nibble and suck at Iolaus' deliciously taut throat. Then clasping both of Iolaus' wrists in one large hand, he ran the other teasingly down Iolaus arms and into his armpits enjoying Iolaus' hopeless struggles to free himself.
"Herc, please listen, it's important," Iolaus pleaded.
The demigod relented. "Okay, what is it."
"You're getting the idea," the hunter replied, giggling at the surprise the demigod's face showed on hearing this piece of cheek instead of the expected complaint.
Taken aback, without thinking Hercules relaxed his grip and the hunter twisted suddenly and nearly dislodged him. The demigod immediately responded by dropping flat and pinning Iolaus to the bed, while recapturing his wrists. "Fall three to me and victory," Hercules announced joyfully. "What's the prize?"
"Me! What else did you expect? Take me now!" he ordered.
"A penalty for winning?" mused Hercules, teasingly. "That seems a bit unfair."
"I'd show you *unfair* if I could get my wrists free," Iolaus retorted.
"Don't count on that happening anytime soon, my love."
"Good! You're learning all the time," Iolaus approved, provocatively. "I'll have you properly trained in no time."
"*You'll* have *me* trained!" Hercules exclaimed, in mock outrage at the impertinence. "Right, my love, you've asked for it. On your stomach *now*!" As he spoke, he released Iolaus' hands and raised himself onto his knees to allow the hunter to twist over.
To his utter amazement, the normally contumacious blond obeyed with alacrity. "There's a jar of oil in my carry-bag if you want to use it, Herc," he said.
Hercules reached for the bag, coated his fingers and began a leisurely preparation of the blond. When all was ready, and Iolaus was squirming and gasping with need, he smiled to himself and announced, "I've changed my mind. I don't think I can go through with this."
"What? Herc, you *can't*!" Iolaus protested, face down and so unable to see just how hard the demigod was under his breechclout.
"I thought you said it was up to me what we did."
"Yes, but ... but ..."
"Oh, well, I suppose I could, *if* you ask nicely, my love."
"Damn you, Herc! You're just ..." He was cut short when a large hand landed stingingly on his arse. "OW!"
"I'm sorry. Please, Herc." The voice was so uncharacteristically meek that it was clearly being employed solely to persuade, with no real contrition involved.
"That's better! I'll have you properly trained in no time," the demigod laughed, echoing the hunter's earlier comment.
With that, he entered the hunter and began to thrust hard, to the latter's intense relief.
The demigod finally climaxed and then started to pump the hunter's cock. Surprisingly he heard the odd giggle mixed in with the latter's gasps and cries of pleasure. Suddenly Iolaus screamed, "Surrentum!" and came hard.
"Iolaus!" Hercules was outraged. He flipped the blond over only to find him laughing hysterically.
When Iolaus managed to regain some control, he gasped, "I-I'm sorry, Herc. I c-couldn't resist. You sh-should see your face." He began to giggle helplessly once more.
The demigod fought to keep from breaking into a grin as he announced, with mock severity, "I can see we are going to have many more sessions before a new obedient Iolaus emerges. Never mind, I suppose I can make the major sacrifice and persevere with your training. You wanted a firm hand and I know just the part of your anatomy to lay it across."
To the hunter's joy he proceeded to do just that.